It was Easter, but he didn't know it. The plastic Easter eggs from last year had been left out all year, filled with sand, and used as paper weights on top of the big desk in the dusty room. Inside the house it was still November, it was always November. It was never young and it would never be old enough. The old woman lived in the dusty room with the Easter eggs. She was dying. She had been dying for as long as he could remember. But she never died fast enough. And she never got well either. Maybe she never got well because she had never been sick. But he was not to say such things. Instead he tiptoed past the door to the dusty room and held his breath lest he should wake her. "I'll show you!" she'd screech. "I'll show you fear in a handful of dust! Just look at this!" she'd say. "Just look!" and she'd stretch out her hand that was withered and yellow like old newspaper, and he hadn't known better. He had looked right at her. At the sagging skin that looked like it had been melted against her pointy bones. But it wasn't the sunken skin that scared him; it wasn't the ashen complexion. The eyes were black, but it wasn't even that. It was the twinkle in them. It was the twinkle out of black eyes that was all that was left alive in her and that wanted him to see fear in a handful of dust. Fear in a handful of ..
"..soil. Now this is soil, and it's not even frozen like it was last month, remember when we found the cat stuck stiff to it?" his father reminded him. He watched his father sift the soil through his fingers and pick it up again and sift it again. He looked and he could not see the difference. "See this is what happens when the winter ends. It all softens up again so I can replant everything. And then it'll grow and we can eat it, just like last year with those watermelons. Remember?" But he still couldn't see the difference. The grass was still short and brown and brittle and it was still cold. There was only one feeble patch of green beside the gnarled rosebush skeleton. And all the rest was brown. "See, we'll have another garden just where it was last year and we'll grow watermelons again," his father explained as he shifted his foot against the clumping dirt. He sifted more of it through is fingers and turned to spit tobacco juice which landed on the patch of green beside the gnarled skeleton. "There," he thought to himself, "now it matches."